Ten

Follow Claire Smith's Mothering Heights on Twitter @MinistryOfMum

Follow Claire Smith's Mothering Heights on Twitter @MinistryOfMum - Credit: Archant

My eldest child turned 10 this week which was a major milestone, not only because it meant he’d reached double figures, but it also marked a decade of motherhood for me.

I can’t quite believe I’m old enough to have a 10-year-old, because obviously in my head I’m only 17. It’s strange that I haven’t aged at all. Yet I seem to be suffering from a bizarre body dysmorphia every time I look in the mirror because I don’t see a woman with a 10-year-old son. I see a young girl. But clearly I have aged – by about 500 years – physically and emotionally, because what other reason is there for feeling this tired and looking this drained. In fact, it’s probably about time that my head started to agree with the mirror and the camera. Also, it’s a real shame that through this ageing, there hasn’t been the corresponding maturity. In fact my behaviour has probably regressed 10 years, especially when on a night out.

This milestone got me thinking about what I’ve learnt in 10 years of parenting and I quickly realised this – I haven’t learnt a thing. It’s as if I’m still in that moment where I’ve been handed a newborn child. I still have no idea what I’m doing. The past 10 years have been one big blag and I’m sure the next 10 years will be too. You’d think that I’d have gained knowledge and wisdom through my experience but all I seem to have gained is a talent to wing it.

Having my first child was a rite of passage for me. You’d expect that from a rite of passage I’d be wiser in the years to follow. Truth is, I didn’t have a clue with my other two children and I still don’t.

It’s interesting that whilst I was thinking about this column, I asked some of my friends who also have 10 year olds what they have learnt. Not one of them has text me back – and that was four days ago. They’re either waiting to see me because the list is too long, or I have completely and utterly stumped them. I think it’s the latter. I’m pretty certain that the majority of parents don’t know what they’re doing. It’s like we just try our best and hope there are no long-term effects or therapy involved.


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In a decade of motherhood I can safely say that I’m doing a really good job at pretending to know about parenting. With this comes feelings of being defeated, wondering why I bother, dreaming of my old life and sometimes drowning. Yet my kids are all still alive so I can’t be doing that bad - but still. I can’t help contemplating why I haven’t got this thing under control, especially as I’ve been at it for 10 years.

With each new challenge that my children throw at me, I deal with it (sometimes) in the very best way I can. But often I fail. Sometimes, because I’m tired/stabby/not bothered I don’t handle a situation in the right manner. Scenarios repeat themselves, through having three kids, and you’d think I’d learn from this – but I don’t.

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I’m sure that if I’d been studying any other subject for 10 years, I’d be an expert by now.

In fact I was an expert on motherhood, before I became a mother. Now 10 years in, not so much. Karma is such a bitch because all the judgements I made about my sister’s parenting methods have now seen me sentenced to years of my own mistakes. Payback sure does suck.

Also, I can’t help thinking about the things I have lost through gaining these children. My body, for one. Patience, freedom, privacy, the ability to remain calm when the going gets tough, nights out, my sports car, uninterrupted phone calls and being able to pee in peace.

Oh but I’ve gained too of course. I have never laughed so much. I can now share. I love like I have never loved before. Those moments when I feel I’m getting it right are wondrous. Sometimes I’m proud of myself and proud of my children.

In fact I will say this – 10 years as a mother has taught me that the only thing that gives kids any chance of making it through decades in our imperfect world is their imperfect parents.

And I’ll drink 10 glasses of wine to that.

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